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Mission, Texas

Calliopsis hondurasica; Copyright 2023 Paula Sharp



Genus Calliopsis

​Calliopsis are small to very-small, usually darkly-colored bees with pale markings.  Females tend to be stoutly-built with small pale markings on the face and legs.  Males have slenderer builds and more extensive pale or yellowish coloration on the face, antennae and legs.

Calliopsis are found only in the Western Hemisphere.   Within the United States, Calliopsis are most common and most diverse in the southwest and west.  Calliopsis is the sole genus of its tribe Calliopsini in North America. 

Calliopsis behavior

Like the Protandrena and Perdita shown in this guide's preceding sections, Calliopsis are miner bees belonging to the subfamily Panurginae.  Calliopsis are solitary ground-nesters that sometimes form populous aggregations.  Nonetheless, the small nest-entrances of these tiny bees may be difficult to find because Calliopsis nests tend to be well-hidden.  Calliopsis females have been observed plugging their nest holes with soil or sand and later “swimming” through the plugs to reach their underground nest tunnels. 


Some Calliopsis females exude a smell that entomologist Alvin Shinn described in 1967 as reminiscent of lemongrass.  He speculated that the bees used the scent in order to mark and locate their nest entrances.

The behavior of Calliopsis males is also singular.  Entomologist William T. Wcislo reported that male Honduran calliopsis sleep in shallow burrows, which they dig near areas where female bees are nesting.  During the day, males stake out territories near nests and chase away other Calliopsis hondurasica males, and sometimes other insects as well. 


Male Honduran calliopsis sometimes engage in dog-fighting behavior. Wcislo described male Calliopsis hondurasica engaging in a practice he called “spiral flight”:  pairs of males faced off, jostling each other and flying rapidly in an increasingly-tight vertical spiral to a height of about one meter.  Eventually, one male would grab the other, making both crash to the ground, where they tumbled and wrestled, sometimes biting each other on the legs until the bee defending the territory prevailed and the intruder caved and fled – or until the intruder successfully evicted the territory holder and took up residence.

Floral preferences of Calliopsis

Calliopsis may be generalist pollinators, or roughly oligolectic, gathering pollen from a narrow spectrum of plants.  The Honduran calliopsis featured here has been found on a range of plants in Mexico and Central America.  In the Lower Rio Grande Valley, it is found most often on small-flowered plants, and it is closely associated with the purple-flowered ground-cover known as Nama.

A male Calliopsis hondurasica; Copyright 2023 Sharp-Eatman Nature Photography

A male Honduran calliopsis


Nama undulatum

Nama, a flower native to the Valley that attracts Honduran calliopsis


Order:   Hymenoptera

Family:   Megachilidae

Subfamily:   Panurginae

Tribe:  Calliopsini

Genus:  Calliopsis

​Species shown on this page:  
    Calliopsis (Calliopsis) hondurasica
     (Honduran calliopsis)

Honduran Calliopsis

Calliopsis (Calliopsis) hondurasica

Family:   Andrenidae

Size: 7 mm  (female)       

Associated  flora

Wavy fiddleleaf Nama

(Nama undulatum)

Plant family:  Boraginaceae

When and where found:

April 27, 2021

National Butterfly Center

Allen Nature Center

Mission & McAllen (Hidalgo Co.)

Calliopsis hondurasica; Copyright 2023 Paula Sharp

A female Honduran calliopsis (Calliopsis hondurasica)

Calliopsis hondurasica male; Copyright 2023 Sharp-Eatman Nature Photography

A female Honduran calliopsis

​Honduran calliopsis are very small, dark bees with abdomens striped by pale hair bands.  The bees’ thoraxes have two narrow oblong markings on the pronotum, and their faces sport distinctive masks and jutting clypei.  Females’ legs are dark and covered with fine white hairs, while males’ legs are relatively hairless and  mostly yellow.  The forewings of Calliopsis have two submarginal cells.

As its name suggests, the Honduran calliopsis is principally a subtropical species:  it is the only Calliopsis found in Central America.  It is also the most widely-distributed Calliopsis – it ranges from the Texas-Mexico border to Panama.  Within the United States, Calliopsis hondurasica extends into Texas and southern Louisiana.  It flies from April through November in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

Facial markings sometimes aid in differentiating among Calliopsis species.  Nonetheless, the facial markings of the Honduran calliopsis are nearly identical to those of the widespread eastern calliopsis (Calliopsis andreniformis).  Males of these two species are somewhat easier to distinguish from each other than are females.  As shown in the accompanying photo strip, the male Calliopsis andreniformis has all-yellow antennal scapes, while the scapes of male C. hondurasica tend to have some brown on the rear apical surfaces.  In addition, the antennal flagella of Calliopsis hondurasica males are slighter longer than the bee’s head; those of the male C. andreniformis are shorter – about as long as the head or less.

Distinguishing female Calliopsis hondurasica from female C. andreniformis requires the assistance of an expert and hinges on characteristics visible only under great magnification. 

In the field, the female Calliopsis hondurasica looks roughly like an ant-sized black bee with a tiny white mark on its face.  Three traits sometimes help sort female Honduran calliopsis from the eastern calliopsis.  (1) The frons (or “forehead”) of Calliopsis andreniformis tends to have a brassy metallic glint.   (2) In the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Calliopsis hondurasica is more likely to be associated with nama than is C. andreniformis.  (3) Finally, the distribution of Calliopsis andreniformis is centered north of the border – this species extends throughout much of the central and eastern United States, as far north as Canada.  It occurs in eastern Texas as far south as Cameron County, but it is less common generally than the Honduran calliopsis. 

Calliopsis Species of the National Butterfly Center  & Lower Rio Grande Valley

CITE THIS PAGE:  Sharp, Paula and Ross Eatman.  "Calliopsis."  Wild Bees of the National Butterfly Center of Mission, Texas. 15 Jan. 2019,  Accessed [day/month/year guide accessed].

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